NEWS

Protests, Violence Flare Around Inaugural Ceremony

21/01/2017 00:11 SAST | Updated 21/01/2017 09:51 SAST

Just an hour before Donald Trump took the presidential oath of office, there were reports in the capital of protesters being pepper-sprayed and fleeing as police officers tried to corral them. Two officers were injured in the melee and 95 were arrested.

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Tweets from D.C. showed people smashing windows at a Bank of America location, and a Starbucks was vandalized at the intersection of 13th Street and I Street. It was unclear who was doing the damage, and the identities of alleged vandals weren't released. But police called them an "organized group" with the sole purpose of destroying property with "crowbars, hammers and asps" about a mile away from the National Mall.

"Two officers have been injured related to vandalism and destruction of property, and 95 arrests made at this point," Lt. Sean Conboy of the Metropolitan Police Department told HuffPost.

Police were seen spraying liquid at protesters ― several reported getting pepper-sprayed on Twitter ― as the expectation of peace at the D.C. protests began to crumble. By the afternoon, smoke and explosions were seen amid a chaotic scene between demonstrators and police.

As Trump made his way down the inaugural parade route, a limousine was set ablaze on 13th and K streets nearby, according to NBC News. Police confirmed that they used pepper spray, batons and other crowd-control methods to disperse protesters, but maintained that no tear gas was used.

"It's a bunch of anarchists," said one Secret Service agent. "Fun times. It's what we expected."

Two women were wiping the pepper spray out of a man's eyes at 13th and L Streets NW, as tears poured down his cheeks. "No media!" they shouted.

There were moments of levity, if perhaps unintentional. "They can't arrest all of us!" shouted one protester clad in all black. His colleagues around him burst out laughing. "Of course they can," one said.

He explained himself, continuing to shout: "They don't have the plastic handcuffs! They can beat the shit out of us, but they can't arrest all of us!"

Jessica Schulberg / The Huffington Post

There were also peaceful demonstrations across the city. Protesters had any number of grievances with their new president, be it his policies, his Cabinet nominations or his encouragement of violence during the 2016 campaign.

"The man is so vile that regardless of his policies, I couldn't have voted for him," said Mary Lou Dicken, 68, who traveled to Washington from Cumberland, Maryland, with her son. "I don't care what things he was going to offer me. He was such a soulless piece of shit that I wouldn't have voted for him anyway."

Trump supporters at the scene, like Doug Rahm of Bikers for Trump Philadelphia, yelled at protesters to stop complaining.

"Get a job," an Associated Press reporter heard Rahm say. "Stop crying, snowflakes, Trump won."

Meanwhile, in New York, schoolchildren took to the streets of Brooklyn hours before the ceremony to protest.

Andy Campbell / The Huffington Post
George and Micah, 8-year-old students from PS 261 in Brooklyn, New York, were out protesting hate on Friday.

The third- and fifth-grade students of PS 261 held signs calling for peace and open arms for immigrants. They sang "This Land Is Your Land" and gave speeches inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.

"We do this every year around Martin Luther King Jr. Day," said 8-year-old Micah. "But this year it just happened to occur on Trump's Inauguration Day. We are here to stop hate."

Andy Campbell / The Huffington Post

Many more were preparing to head to Trump Tower in Manhattan. Those protests were organized by local politicians to resist Trump's Cabinet nominees and police use of stop and frisk, as well as congressional Republicans' plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Los Angeles was preparing for thousands of protesters downtown. The "United Against Hate-Inauguration March" had garnered more than 15,000 attendees on Facebook.

Throngs of demonstrators gathered at University of California, Berkeley, some of whom had staged a walkout from class at the university and local high schools, they told HuffPost.

The protests on Friday are expected to be small compared to the women's marches on Saturday in D.C., Los Angeles and New York. More than 370 "Sister Marches" are planned across the country, with hundreds of thousands of people expected to attend in D.C. alone.

Andy Campbell and Willa Frej reported from New York City. Ryan Grim and Jessica Schulberg reported from Washington, D.C. Michael Mclaughlin reported from Berkeley, California. Ryan Grenoble contributed reporting.